The Ball Breaker's Summer Club

Felicia and Ruby are just about the best sixth grade friends with bicycles that ever existed in a trailer park. They do everything together, no matter what, including resisting being sucked into an 80’s time warp at the local Pizzaria ’N Kabob Shop.

One afternoon while trying out the career of Private Detective—because before you go to college to become learned on a subject, you first should try it out and make sure it’s up your alley—they privately witness a real crime. And sometimes you just can’t count on the insane world of adults to right all the wrongs without a little top-secret help from the kids’ in The Ball Breaker’s Summer Club.

Our Story Begins...

The first morning of summer vacation seriously needs big fluffy buttermilk pancakes, so you can celebrate, like right out of the Oprah magazines on the bottom rack of the Quick ’N Go.

Without the buttermilk, actually.

Because I can’t stand that sour stuff. But you know what I mean.

All my stepmom, I mean my step-not-mom, had in the pantry was box yellow cake mix, so I was currently fighting with the only spatula we owned and proving to a point that non-stick is a lie.

Ruby rang my cell phone and it vibrated off the counter and fell into the bowl of wet brown dog food on the floor in the rainbow plastic bowl.

Now that tells you something when Wiener, my big giant fat wiener dog, sniffs food and walks away from it last night.

I pulled the Nokia out of the dog blob and wiped my pay-as-you-go phone off with a paper towel. I’m just trying to say that it’s cheap, not that we’re poor and it’s all we can afford.

“Don’t do that,” I said. “Now I have to talk to you and my phone smells like human mouth.”

“What?” Ruby whispered. “Don’t even start with that bacteria thing again, Felicia. I know the molecular world is a new discovery for you and all, but sixth grade science is over. I need you here, pronto.”

“As in right now?” I said, looking woefully at my celebratory breakfast. Even though it smelled wonderful it actually looked a bit like vomit in the pan, and for that reason only I’m sure Oprah would not eat it. I slid the hot pan onto a cold burner.

“No, yesterday.”

I paused to think about that. “That’s impossible.”

“Just get over here.”

It’s really easy to go to Ruby’s house. I walked out the front door of our single wide trailer in the park, sponged across the fake outdoor golf-course-grass carpet mat which is mysteriously always soggy, hopped over the two-foot white plastic garden fence for which we have no garden, and looked up at her faded pink trailer door.

I’m not allowed to knock anymore.

Ruby lives alone with her grumpy dad and he got a new job at the graveyard doing shifts. He has about the personality of Mr. Potato Head the toy. The last time I knocked he answered the door in his Christmas boxers and yelled at me in Cuban Spanish, which has English in it, and I never knew men could grow so much hair there.

I mean on his back.

It makes you wonder about the theory of evolution and maybe the missing link is not actually missing anymore.

Anyway, I promised myself not to see Mr. Vasculez mostly naked again. One time did it enough for me.

I saw movement to my right and Ruby’s face enlarged like a magnifying glass in the window to the right of the door. Ruby has really beautiful brown skin and I’m just white as a ghost.

It kinda sucks that way, but we can’t like everything about ourselves.

I do have really pretty shoulders. I’ve been told that before.

Ruby gave me the five minute hand signal, then disappeared. I’m like, really? Because I could have finished cooking and eating by then.

So I ran back over to my house and finished cooking and eating and came back over to her house.

She opened the door and flew out like a bird because she’s as skinny as a piece of graph paper. She could practically be an origami doll all folded up and intricate, but super functional just the same.

“What on earth are you so excited about?” I said. It was Saturday morning around ten o’clock and the whole octagonal trailer park was shrouded in an awkward summer mist. This is what we get for living in Arcata on the damp northern California coast.

We’re like the survivors of a lost continent out here. And when the wind blows right, the air also smells like cow patties from the pasture and the pulp mill.

I won’t tell you what the pulp mill smells like.

Well, it’s basically poop, too.

“Look,” she said. From the pocket of her purple velvet lounge jacket she pulled out a tiny little blue plastic chip with copper squares. I knew immediately it was a memory card. And belonging to the Cannon PowerShot SD780 IS.

It has 12.1 megapixels. And shoots video.

“OMG,” I said, just like if we were texting. “You found it?”

Ruby nodded in that I know something you don’t kind of way, her eyes all narrowed and spicy and conspiratorial. Just like a janitor would look who had just found a diamond ring in the lunchroom trash can and slinked it into a secret compartment on the end of his mop.

“It had some old toothpaste on it, but I wiped it off,” she said. I took that to mean it got lost in the bathroom.

She raised her eyebrows twice and that’s the signal for getting on our garage sale bikes and going somewhere fun. In this case, we both knew exactly where we were going without saying.

[end excerpt]